Name: Stefanie Hehn
At the moment: Germany
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first encounter in the wine industry was just during my training in Bad Kissingen. I had to work in a 1 Michelin star, fine dining restaurant and my Restaurant Manager was the sommelier as well. So he was recommending the wines and told me, what I have to bring from the cellar and where I have to open the bottle. I had to do the professional wine service on every table.
Every day I was afraid, people will ask me something. I didn`t know anything about wine at that point.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
For the part working in the Restaurant: You should be a positive and sensitive person. When you buy the wines for a restaurant: You have to be really tough and careful not to get punked.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
I would recommend your Blog, there you have a big range of Sommelier Jobs in every position around the world, otherwise they can have a look on guildsomm, and what is also helpful is the hotel career site.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
I will ask a lot of questions now, if I don’t know the guest well. Start talking about what he normally drinks etc.
You have to know what kind of wine drinker your guests are. There are so many possibilities. Maybe he just likes to drink something what is just in his taste what he drinks everyday or if he is the super wine geek he likes to test you if you have something he has never heard about or if he likes to spent all his money in wine and you have the chance to make a great revenue with him.
What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
In the restaurant I have worked with Schott Zwiesel glasses. I don’t like to have to many different kind of glasses. I think you need something like a Riesling glass for the crispy white wines, for more powerful Burgundy style I prefer to have a small and big Burgundy glass and then I need a Bordeaux glass for all the aromatic reds like Cabernet and Syrah.
I like to have different water glasses for sparkling and still and maybe you should have a Champagne glass because some people just drink the Champagne when they have a lot of bubbles ? At home I have some more brands, because for my trainings in blind tastings I don’t like to be to focused in one kind of glass.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
I love this part, if the Sommelier does really taste all the food and knows a lot about how to combine and not just to show you his freaky wines of the cellar, you will have a lot of fun. In this case you also have to know, if the costumer is open minded for a great taste, sometimes the Sommeliers expects too much from their guests.
I had a pairing with a Savagnin and a truffle-potato course with my last chef. It was a great combination but if you have never had a glas of Savagnin before, the people are just stressed about drinking the wine and cannot concentrate on the food. You really have to know how open your customer is.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
You should inform them and than yes for sure, nobody likes to have the corky taste before eating a great meal.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
It depends how much money you have available and how quick the suppliers can deliver you – same with the glasses. You should have wines for every taste. From crispy whites to big burgundys and pinot style reds to high concentrated thick Syrah. For the guests who don’t like to be advised by the Sommelier you should have a hand of wines who are a bit famous. And for sure you can have some wines who are more unknown and you should make sure that you have people who can do the consulting for your customers. Than I would show to have a wine for every course I serve.
The bottle price on your wine list should start with the half price of the smallest menu and then you should know what kind of people your customers are and how expensive you can go.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I’ve visited a lot of tastings, did a lot of wine trips and was reading much about wines in magazines and blogs. But my decision was every time just stay classic and don’t get to spiritual than you will have never problems with your cellar. I am trying not to get too focused to some areas, for me it is really important to have a selection from around the world.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
I’m not the one who likes to have spontaneous visitors, the best is, if they would try to call me, get my contacts and inform me what they are doing than they can sent me samples. After I will taste the wines blind and if they are of good quality and fair priced, they have the chance that I will buy.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I would be a Pinot Noir, taste everyday different never boring…
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) we would find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
A matured off dry Riesling, you can combine it with a lot of food, and Riesling is the king of all wines….some elegant Burgundy like Chardonnay from Chassagne or Puligny because I love those wines…some structured Pinot Noir like the ones of Chevillon because you have a powerful taste and don`t get a headache in the sun….but I don’t like to drink alone….
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
Purple Pages, Guildsomm, Decanter, Wine Spectator, Fine Magazine
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com